Prebiotic Fiber, Fermentable Fiber, and Resistant Starch - Fiber That Improves Your Health
Real talk: fiber is one of the main reasons whole plant foods are good for you. But what is fiber, exactly?
Fiber actually happens to be a carbohydrate naturally found in yummy plants like leafy greens, colorful fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Fiber’s primary task is to keep our digestive system running smoothly.
There are several types of fiber, and they all interact with our microbiome differently. Use this guide to get a better understanding of the role fiber has in our everyday health.
For a long time we categorized fiber as either insoluble or soluble. But recent studies have discovered that our friendly gut bacteria are able to digest (ferment) certain types of fiber.
Fermentable fiber (inulin) plays an essential role in maintaining not only the health of your lower intestine but also aids in overall wellness. Fermentable fiber increases the number of friendly gut bacteria, which also produces anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids.
People who incorporate fermentable fiber into their diet help their bodies operate and heal more efficiently than those who don’t.
- Stabilizes blood glucose, which helps people avoid developing Type 2 diabetes
- Protects against cancerous polyps and helps the body absorb essential minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium
- Stimulates the immune system by boosting production of helper cells and other antibodies
Incorporating fermentable fiber into your diet couldn’t be simpler. In the grocery store, you will find fermentable fiber in foods such as chicory root, yacon root, jerusalem artichoke, yams, dandelion greens, leeks, onion, garlic, wheat, and bananas.
As it name suggests, viscous fiber (soluble fiber) dissolves in water and forms a gel in your gut. The jelly-like substance slows the process of breaking down food in your intestines, which reduces the glycemic index of the food you just ate. Whole foods containing viscous fibers include legumes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, oats, and flax seed.
- Slows digestion, reducing glycemic index of your meal.
- May prevent high cholesterol and diabetes.
Most of the carbohydrates in your diet are starches. Starches are long chains of glucose that are most commonly found in grains and potatoes. But not all of the starch you eat are digested. Sometimes, a small part of it resists digestion, passing through your system instead. This type of starch is called resistant starch. Resistant starches function like fermentable fiber, traveling through your stomach and small intestine undigested, eventually reaching your colon where it feeds your friendly gut bacteria.
There are four types of resistant starches:
- Type 1: Found in grains, seeds, legumes, and resists digestion because it’s bound within the fibrous cell walls
- Type 2: Found in some starchy foods, including raw potatoes and green (unripe) bananas
- Type 3: Formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes and rice, are cooked and then cooled.
- Type 4: Man-made and formed via a chemical process
Depending on how foods are prepared, the amount of resistant starch changes. For example, allowing a banana ripen (turn yellow) will degrade the starches and turn them to regular starches.
- It has a “second meal effect”, meaning if you eat resistant starch with breakfast, it will also lower your blood sugar spike at lunch.
- Reducing insulation resistance from inflammation
- Helps to repair leaky gut
To reap the benefits of resistant starch, aim to consume 15-30 grams of resistant starch a day, depending on your personal dietary needs.
Inulin (Inulin Oligofructose)
Found in plants, inulin is a prebiotic fiber that travels through your digestive system and makes its way to your lower bowel, where it feeds the friendly bacteria living there (yes, just like resistant starch!). It’s considered a soluble fiber and has been shown to slow digestion and balance blood sugar levels.
One of the most widely used sources of inulin is chicory root. Chicory root is commonly added to boxed foods like granola or cereals to help increase the fiber content. When creating our Rowdy Prebiotic bars, we chose to use the yacon root instead because it is uniquely sweet despite its low glycemic qualities.
You can also eat similar amounts of inulin by including the following foods in your diet:
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Dandelion root
- Yacon root
Key Benefit: Increases good bacteria in the gut, leading to improved overall health.
If you’ve ever made jam from fruits, it’s because pectin forms a gel-like substance that acts as a natural thickener and binder. But pectin is much more than an ingredient that can help you win the “best jam” competition at the state fair. Pectin makes the list of healthy starches because its a soluble fiber that’s been shown to act as a prebiotic that feeds your good gut bacteria.
Key Benefit: Slows the digestion of food, which has a hand in lowering cholesterol.
Fiber Up For Better Health
Did you know fiber could do all that? Fiber packs the power, which is why we're proud to include prebiotic fiber in our Rowdy bars. Our mission is to make it easy to get your daily nutrients in a convenient, tasty way. If you haven't join the Rowdy prebiotic revolution yet, head over to the shop and choose your favorite flavor!